It’s awkward to talk to someone who doesn’t yet talk back, but the research is clear—there’s a strong link between a child’s vocabulary and the number of words spoken to them as a baby. In the first few months, your baby is constantly listening to the intonation, rhythm, and patterns of your voice. Even though they can’t understand what you’re saying yet, their brain is laying the groundwork for acquiring language.
Some tips for talking to your baby:
Have a “conversation”
If they start to coo or make any kind of vocalization, talk back to them. Research consistently shows that back-and-forth conversation and child-directed speech matters just as much as—if not more than—the number of words your baby hears.
Try the reading position in the photo above—your baby will take more interest in the book you’re reading if they can see your face, too. It also helps support your baby’s body with your legs.
Narrate the day
Narrate as much as possible for your baby as you move about the house or neighborhood. Tell them about the produce while you are shopping, talk to them while you are changing a diaper. Talk to them face-to-face whenever you can.
When your baby is awake, facing forward in a wrap or with their head turned to the side in a carrier, walk around your house and talk about what you are seeing and experiencing. “House tours” will be a favorite activity throughout the first year.
Sing to your baby
Even if you don’t think you have a great voice, your baby will love it because it’s yours ❤️ Babies tune into singing even more than talking.
Talk in a slower, higher-pitched, sing-song voice
Use the voice that comes naturally to you when speaking to babies. Babies are pre-programmed to tune into higher tones, and learn more from the stretched out vowels in baby talk.
Learn more about the research
Rowe, M. L., & Snow, C., E. (2020). Analyzing input quality along three dimensions: Interactive, linguistic, and conceptual. Journal of Child Language, 47(1), 5-21.
Weisleder, A., & Fernald, A. (2013). Talking to children matters: Early language experience strengthens processing and builds vocabulary. Psychological Science, 24(11), 2143-2152.
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